Thursday, April 29, 2010

Newman Revised

From today's online edition of The Catholic Herald:

"It’s wrong to use Newman to attack Pope Benedict: Efforts to present Cardinal Newman as a 'spirit of Vatican II' Catholic are laughable, says Ian Ker."

An excerpt from the article:

In the Easter issue of the New Statesman, John Cornwell celebrates the feast by invoking Newman's name in a particularly vicious and virulent attack on the Pope. He ends his article by saying that as the date of the beatification approaches: "We may expect... to hear tidied-up versions of Newman's critical and liberalising views of the Catholic Church, but unlike those dissident theologians who have been suppressed down the years, his unexpurgated works ... remain in print." Yes, indeed, and so do over 30 volumes of letters, as well as other volumes of writings that were never published in Newman's lifetime. As the biographer of Newman and the author and editor of more than 20 books on Newman, I can claim to have consulted these "unexpurgated works" to which Cornwell (who is no Newman scholar) appeals in his attempt to present Newman as a dissident theologian of the "spirit of Vatican II" school.

It is, of course, perfectly true that in the Church in which Newman lived he was seen by the Ultramontanes as a dangerous liberal. But these Ultramontanes were extreme papalists, who were disappointed by the very moderate and circumscribed definition of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council; their counterpart to "the spirit of Vatican II" of contemporary liberal Catholics, who similarly wish that Vatican II had gone much further in its teachings...

Cornwell appropriately cites Newman's famous words: "Here below to live is to change", as "an ideal mission statement for the 1960s". Indeed, they would be very apt words for that rebellious decade had the previous sentence also been quoted - namely, that Christianity has to change "in order to remain the same". Having invoked Newman's concept of development as essential if the Church is to remain the same, Cornwell then laughably accuses the reforming Ratzinger (who allegedly degenerated into the reactionary Ratzinger) of opposing development because he came to believe that the Church "must remain ... ever the same"!

Read the entire article: It's wrong to use Newman to attack Pope Benedict – Catholic Herald Online

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